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Li Binyuan (1985, China) graduated from his studies of sculpture in 2011 at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he now lives and works. Binyuan belongs to the so-called ‘new generation’ of Chinese artists, whose work draws upon the codes and techniques of the experimental Chinese art scene of the 1980s and ’90s. His performances explore China’s changing socioeconomic landscape. Li Binyuan’s practice is an exploration of spatial systems and the possibilities for action within a space. For him, space is a physical and socio-political entity. In his work, space is created based on the artist’s plan, presenting completely new meanings and energies. Through his personal interventions, Li invites viewers to reconsider appropriate and legitimate boundaries, casting further doubt on common sense as a medium of control.

Certain hormones are released under physical activity, especially dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline. High levels of these hormones produce a sense of awareness and wellbeing. From nature’s side, a certain sense of gratification is often characteristic in the aftermath of physical struggle or physical exhaustion. Typically, we see this among athletes and in sports or in adrenaline triggering activities such as base jumping, but also in people who have been under severe stress. This occurrence is also evident in the works of Chinese artist Li Binyuan.

In his performances and videos, Li Binyuan seemingly embarks on futile activities involving exhausting or impossibly stressful physical activities. Whether it is in his work “Freedom Farming” where he throws his body around in the mud of a rice paddy in his home village that he has inherited the right to cultivate; in his latest work “Process” (2019) where he covers his hands and knees with bricks to crawl across an icy lake mid-winter; or in this work Drawing Board where he with Sisyphos-like determination tries to hold back the river.

The seemingly useless and futile struggles of these efforts may offer an insight into some of the struggles within contemporary society; where a similar lack of logic dominates in social and political structures resulting in a catch-22. Despite all the obstacles of the daily life, the artist sets out to slowly, but deliberately, break down structures and conquer obstacles with small, but exhausting, efforts that leave physical impressions on his body. His body becomes the tool as well as the metaphor. The subtle control mechanisms will eventually be broken. By the seemingly pointless but determined effort on the part of the individual which becomes his own force of nature.

Binyuan’s work are represented in collections such as The Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA) M+ Museum for Visual Culture (Hong Kong), Kadist Art Foundation (Paris, France/San Francisco CA, USA) University of Salford (Manchester, UK) and White Rabbit Gallery, (Sydney, Australia).

Text and representation in collaboration with Bjørn Inge Follevaag